More than ten million Ugandans have hypertension – the regrettable fact is that most of them do not know this fact
Hypertension, or high blood pressure (HBP), is described as a long term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently high. Stroke, heart failure and kidney disease are among the risk factors associated with it.
Approximately one in ten people in Uganda have more than three risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). “Results from the latest survey demonstrate that and their risk factors are a serious public health problem, revealing a high prevalence of 26.5% of hypertension among Ugandans.
And the majority of people with Hypertension are not aware of their Hypertension status,” says Dr. Henry G. Mwebesa, the Acting Director General Health Services, Ministry of Health (MoH). Non communicable diseases are those that are not caused by infectious agents – those associated with HBP fall in this category.
Addressing participants last week at Munyonyo during an international NCD conference, Dr. Mwebesa said only 7.7 percent of Ugandans were aware of their hypertension. “This indicates a high burden of un-diagnosed and un-controlled high blood pressure. Many people between 18 to 64 years are at high risks of hypertension-related diseases,” he added.
The conference was organized by the Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MUCHS).
HBP is dangerous because the higher the blood pressure gets, the harder the heart has to work to pump blood around the body. And the more likely the heart and blood vessels will be damaged.
Without treatment, HBP can cause a heart attack, enlargement of the heart, and heart failure. The blood vessels may start to bulge, burst, or clog; and the excessive pressure inside the vessels in the brain may cause a brain-bleed leading to a stroke.
“The Epidemiology of Hypertension in Uganda: Findings from the National Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Survey,” published in September 2015, indicates that out of the 3906 participants in the study, 1033 were classified as hypertensive, a prevalence of 26.4 percent. That represents over 11.5m of Uganda’s current population estimate of 43.7 million.
Prevalence is highest in the central region at 28.5 percent. This is followed by the eastern region at 26.4 percent, western region at 26.3 percent, and the northern region at 23.3 percent. At 28.9 percent, prevalence is higher in urban areas than in rural areas – 25.8 percent.
Dr. Sabrina Bakeera-Kitaka of the MUCHS told the conference that more people aged between 39 and 69 were dying prematurely due to NCDs. “This symposium will help build momentum and raise awareness for Uganda and other African countries, especially as we look towards promotion of prevention,” she added.
Health Minister Dr. Ruth Jane Aceng said: “Following this survey, the Ministry of Health has embarked on a strategy to deal with NCDs since hypertension is among them.
In recognition of the high burden of NCDs in Uganda, the Ministry of Health has established an NCD Department and development of an NCD policy is in advanced stages.”
She said that efforts to raise awareness on NCDs and their risk factors were on-going across the country and management of NCDs had been decentralized to Health Center III level so people could access NCD services easily.
The major drivers for NCDs include tobacco use, drinking alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet.
The Principal of the MUCHS, Prof. Charles Ibingira, said: “Policy makers and stakeholders in the health sector need to institute nationwide population-based strategies to create awareness about hypertension, its main risk factors, and its consequences, and therefore the need for regular screening.”